National Mall of Pickleball brings fastest-growing sport ‘to America’s front yard’

Have you been caught up in the pickleball craze? The accessible game is coming to the JFK Hockey Fields this September, with nine temporary courts being built next to the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool for the inaugural National Mall of Pickleball.

Pairs of pickleball enthusiasts will be able to register for an hourlong, free reservation for Sept. 28-30, where they will be matched with another set of players for a friendly game of doubles.

There will also be on-site pickleball lessons and clinics, celebrity matches, a cooking demonstration and exhibition match play with Major League Pickleball’s D.C. Pickleball Team.

The National Mall of Pickleball will add nine temporary courts being built next to the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. (Courtesy National Mall of Pickleball)

Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in America, according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, with participation increasing by 85.7% in 2022 alone and by 158.6% since 2019.

Humana and the Trust for the National Mall are also bringing “pickleball to America’s front yard” to highlight how the sport is keeping seniors in shape, with SFIA reporting that one-third of dedicated pickleball players are 65 and older.

Pickleball players at the YMCA Bethesda in Chevy Chase told WTOP that the secret to pickleball’s success is that “it’s a game that anybody can play, really.”

“The other thing I would say is that we have a huge population of retired people. And everybody I know, just about, who is retired has taken up pickleball,” one woman said. “And I’ve never played sports before. But I’m really [enjoying] being outside with friends and running around. Just that in itself is fun.”

Beyond getting great exercise, the YCMA group said they’ve made friends through playing the sport.

“None of us knew each other before pickleball,” another woman said. “We’ve just slowly amassed more people so that we can have regular games and play together, and have fun and laugh.”

Pickleball is taking off across the D.C. metro area, with Fairfax County and Alexandria County converting tennis courts to dedicated pickleball or dual-use courts.

Even D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser got in on the action in March, picking up a paddle as she announced that she would set aside money in the city budget to build four more pickleball courts. Despite the conversion of less-used tennis courts, there continues to be a shortage of pickleball courts in the District.

If you’re tired of waiting to play on high-demand pickleball courts, online reservations to play at the National Mall of Pickleball will open up on Sept. 14 at noon. Click here for more information and to sign up.

WTOP’s Neal Augenstein contributed to this report.

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Emily Venezky

Emily Venezky is a digital writer/editor at WTOP. Emily grew up listening to and reading local news in Los Angeles, and she’s excited to cover stories in her chosen home of the DMV. She recently graduated from The George Washington University, where she studied political science and journalism.

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